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Justice Dept. plays waiting game over AT&T, T-Mobile antitrust trial

A game of cat-and-mouse and one-upmanship continues between the FCC, the Justice Dept, and AT&T over its proposed merger with T-Mobile.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor on

The U.S. Department of Justice is playing hardball over its expected impending move to slam AT&T, the largest cellular network in the United States.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) remains strong in its stance in threatening to block the deal, and the Justice Dept. is ready to take the matter to court.

The two camps of AT&T and T-Mobile hoped it could take on the FCC once it had dealt with the U.S. Justice Dept., but since it pulled its application, the Justice Dept. has been mulling its next move.

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AT&T, T-Mobile merger -- (Source: CBS News)

But the Justice Dept. decided that the AT&T trial can wait, seen as a retaliatory move to further disrupt the merger, since AT&T pulled its application to the FCC to acquire the U.S. cellular arm of Deutsche Telekom.

Speaking today, AT&T said that it is "anxious" to bring the benefits it thinks it can bring to the U.S. consumer market. It also said it was "eager" to present its case in court.

Two things spring to mind:

Firstly, the FCC previously slammed the proposed 'benefits', after AT&T made false claims about its proposal in a bid to butter up the regulators.

The FCC said it had: "identified internal AT&T documents and consistent historical practices that contradict AT&T’s claim that merging with T-Mobile is essential for AT&T to build out its LTE network to 97 percent of Americans".

The Justice Dept. is giving AT&T time to stew in its own juices. It is in no rush to bring this to trial. The game of cat-and-mouse continues, but with the benefit of somewhat greater strategy.

By throwing mud into the ring, the FCC made this fight a lot more interesting. If the regulator says 'you lied', you had better come up with half-decent excuse. AT&T denied the claims, but when you're faced with a government department, one had to choose its words wisely.

But secondly, not wanting to be upstaged, the Justice Dept. took the chance to even out-do the FCC. It could be seen as the two authorities fighting over who gets left the carcass of the bloody remains of the AT&T and T-Mobile merger.

The judge in the case said that the motion must be filed by Tuesday, with a hearing scheduled for Thursday.

Related:

CBS News: Feds sue to block AT&T deal to buy T-Mobile

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